The Balance is Hiding

I feel a little better today.

Not because of the brutally cold winter rain taking place at the end of a brutally cold North Carolina winter, and not because the exam stress has let up; in fact, it’s gotten much worse, but I’m getting used to it. Getting up an hour early to study at my desk before work starts feels like a reasonable thing to do now, and racing home at 6 to walk the dog and study until bedtime has become more feasible, but only if I have managed to run a week’s worth of errands and make a week’s worth of meals and have a week’s worth of  work outfits ready to go during the weekend. It’s fine. It’s temporary. I hope it’s temporary.

I skimmed back over the last few posts, and wow! Someone is working through some serious architecture anger. It’s not the first time since the crash of the industry a few years back that anyone has expressed any disillusionment. It may not be the last. But the key is, I’m working through it. Fighting the process has only been making it worse, although I daresay embracing a really bad attitude has been enjoyable enough to make it more entertaining. For the record, there was a really fun post in the middle of all that, one which involved a Pie-Off and Secret Celebrity Judges and a huge party, and it was a smashing success for all concerned. About twenty-five people had pie hangovers for three days or so, but we survived to tell the story. And I DID tell the story, and I hit “publish,” and poof! Gone. It disappeared into the ether. Never to return. I was too tired to start again.

After the party, I picked up my books and studied some more. Did I say at one point I wasn’t even going bother talking about these tests? Oh, gentle readers, I hope you weren’t optimistic enough to fall for that. Sorry. It’s happening again.

The first exam was last Friday, and I was feeling very false-confident, fake-it-till-you-make-it about the whole thing. I put on a black leather jacket and confidence-building boots, and I went and got my nails done with the thought that, if I had to sit and type for four hours, at least I could steel myself with some reassuring Girl Armor. I chose the vampiest red they had (actually a color called Wocka Wocka, which was a big point in its favor) and then I had a very nervous lunch and downed a sixteen ounce coffee at Third Place, and went to take the exam.

Prometric Testing is not really concerned about making you feel like a Special Snowflake. In fact, you are made to feel accused and shady the whole time, and other than all of my motor vehicle infractions, I am not used to being particularly shady. It’s not pleasant. They made me take off my black leather jacket, leave it in a locker with my keys, sat me in a chair at the end of a row of people, and we scooted down one-by-one, musical chairs style, closer and closer to doom.  I wanted to turn to the guys on either side of me and say, “What are YOU in for?” but I was afraid that would get me extra monitoring from the testing staff.  When it was my turn, I was fingerprinted four times on a special keypad, security wanded, had to show that I had nothing hidden in my boots or pockets, and was told that I would be videotaped for the duration of the test.

After all of that, the test wasn’t that bad, except as soon as I sat down I got a sniffle and was afraid to ask for a kleenex, so I was just the most annoying person in the room until the break. The mandatory break was excruciating- they make you get up and leave for fifteen minutes, and you get fingerprinted and wanded again and turn your pockets inside out on the way in and out, then you sit back in the row of plastic chairs and stare at the clock until you go back in for the second half.

I finished an hour and a half early, and that included checking all of my answers and verifying every single measurement on the drawing section. I wasn’t sure whether that signaled disaster or success. But I passed.

The first one was probably the Least Pleasant exam of the seven, the most deadly dull and irritating. Partly because it was the first, and starting hard things is, well, a hard thing, but also because it’s all contract documents and liability and construction administration. That, in fact, was most of what I did at my last job. It’s possible that had something to do with my bad attitude about that particular test. The next two exams are probably the Most Interesting, and they deal with actual design issues. The drawing sections are getting more challenging, and there are a lot of ways to fail immediately. After that I have the Scariest, and then the Hardest of the seven, and then the last two are Highly Technical, and Highly Intimidating, and then I’m done. Unless I have re-takes.

Nobody cares about any of that. It is, in fact, all pretty deadly dull, but it will eventually be over and I can return to better things. Fletch would like that. He’s the only person who is less happy about the Architectural Registration Exam than I am. (See? See how I wrote that without cursing? Surely that represents progress?)

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So, I believe I mentioned that I was earmarking the first quarter of this year for preparation and regrouping. I’ll have to say, cruising into March, that it’s been fairly successful.  I’ve eaten a lot of salads, started a novel, done some long-range planning at work, and done some unpleasant paperwork, from exam registration to taxes to paying off my credit card. I’ve been to the dentist, gotten contact lenses which actually allow me to see clearly, and gotten the full-body scan at the dermatologist I’ve been putting off for a year or two.  She removed two offending freckles on the spot and sent me to a plastic surgeon for the other one. I thought that was a bit extreme, until I saw the seriously impressive Frankenstein scar I have now, and I dreaded all of that but it’s checked off the list, too. I spent an hour and a half last weekend wrestling with software to convert iTunes so I could use them on my new phone- and now I have music, and therefore- ZOMBIES, RUN. I’m ready to start again.

In preparation for all my Zombies, Run missions, I’ve been doing a lot of yoga to try and get my knee where it needs to be for some easy running. I’ve been so frazzled and scattered I haven’t been very mindful in class, but just being in a quiet room for 90 minutes once or twice a week has been a big help. Just before the first test I had reached the point of anxiety at which my hair was tingling, which is probably not all that healthy. We were doing Dancer’s Pose, which involves holding your ankle and kicking back as hard as you can and reaching skyward with the other hand, until eventually you tilt forward and see your foot over the top of your head. It’s hard, and most people fall out a lot, because trying to pull your foot up over your head is not always a graceful maneuver.

The teacher was watching us fall out of the pose and get back in, and fall out immediately, and she reminded us that we should be kicking backwards with all our strength, while reaching forward with all of our strength, and that eventually we would even out.

“You’ll find the balance hiding in the tension,” she said.

It’s so easy to lose, and so hard to maintain, and she is so right.

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